Warning: Constant WP_DEBUG already defined in /usr/home/huckleberry/domains/messmag.com/public_html/wp-config.php on line 84 The Life and Legacy of Dame Vivienne Westwood – Mess Magazine

We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Dame Vivienne Westwood. The fashion icon that she was through the decades with her avant-garde designs, unafraid to challenge stereotypes, she will be forever remembered as the first designer to spark the punk fashion revolution and bring it into the mainstream.

In honour of the life and legacy of Dame Vivienne Westwood, we’ve derived a timeline of the icon’s truly classic fashion moments throughout her lifetime.

Image courtesy of viviennewestwood.com

In the late 1960s, the hippie movement was thriving. From florals to tassels to long hair and skirts, there was almost nothing else doing well in the fashion market at the time. Vivienne Westwood felt uninspired by this current fashion and wanted to break out from the trends to make something different. Inspired by acts of rebellion and punk, Westwood began designing ‘Teddy Boy’ clothes for husband Malcolm McClaren. These designs came into the public eye when she opened a shop in 1971 on Kings Road in Chelsea, London, and filled it with these punk-rock pieces. Westwood frequently changed the name of the shop depending on her designs at the time. Originally called ‘Let It Rock’, the shop was later renamed ‘Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die’, ‘Sex’, and ‘Seditionaries’, before landing on the name it maintains today, ‘Worlds End’. Westwood’s pieces came to shape the fashion of the punk-rock music scene. The brand’s biggest wearer was The Sex Pistols, managed by Westwood’s husband, McClaren.

Dame Vivienne Westwood in punk-rock designs. Image courtesy of viviennewestwood.com

First Image: Worlds End Boutique in Chelsea, London, c. 2010. Image courtesy of geograph.org.uk, shot by Chris Whippet.

In the early 80s, Westwood had her first official collaborative catwalk show debuting the ‘Pirate’ AW81/82 Collection, which was filled with golds, oranges and yellows and was inspired by the pirate aesthetic of boutique ‘Worlds End’. The ‘Pirate’ trouser was baggy at the bum, a contrast to the tight designs in fashion at the time. 

First Image: ‘Pirate’ Collection, courtesy of viviennewestwood.com. Second Image: Model Sara Stockbridge outside Vivienne Westwood’s Worlds End Boutique in Chelsea, London, c. 1980s, courtesy of viviennewestwoodworldsend/Instagram

In the late 80s and early 90s, Westwood began receiving greater attention and recognition for her unique work: in 1989, Westwood was featured as one of the world’s top six designers that year in John Fairchild’s book, ‘Chic Savages’, alongside big fashion names Armani, Saint Laurent, Lacroix, Largerfeld and Ungaro. In 1990, the designer launched a menswear collection in Florence and was named British designer of the year by the British Fashion Council, both that year and in 1991.

In 1988, Westwood opened her second boutique. Four years later, the designer received an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II, and in 1998 won the Queen’s Export Award. Westwood introduced wedding dresses into her collections in 1992, which soon came to be adored across the industry for their unmatched asymmetric elegance. 

Image courtesy of viviennewestwoodworldsend/Instagram

Unafraid of controversy, in 2003 Westwood sent male models down the catwalk wearing fake breasts under cashmere sweaters and polo tops in the AW 2003 menswear collection. Westwood decided to include this statement in her collection to highlight and normalise the preference of some men to dress in feminine pieces. 

Westwood’s famous ‘Harris Tweed’ collection for Autumn-Winter 1987 was inspired by a chance encounter of a young girl standing on the tube wearing a Harris Tweed jacket. Westwood thought the girl looked so cool and composed, that she was inspired in the moment to create a collection centering around this tweed motif. The designer then produced her own tartan for her ‘Anglomania’ Autumn-Winter 1993/94 collection and invented a clan by the name of ‘MacAndreas’. Amazingly, the Lochcarron of Scotland officially recognised the clan, something which can normally take two centuries to occur. 

Image courtesy of viviennewestwoodworldsend/Instagram

The esteemed ‘Red Label’ was officially started in 1999. The line embodied the designer’s continued interest in the classic and effortless art of Savile Row tailoring combined with high class French couture. 

In 2004, the V&A Museum in London hosted a first of its kind exhibition which showcased and celebrated Vivienne Westwood and the designer’s contribution to the industry over the last three decades. This solo exhibition is then honoured by Moet & Chandon Fashion tribute in a congratulatory nod to it being the first of its kind. 

In 2006, Westwood attended Buckingham Palace to receive her Damehood. 

Westwood made it her mission throughout her lifetime to collaborate with charities and non-profit organisations to raise awareness and support for different global issues. In support of the Ethical Fashion Initiative and Artisan Fashion, Westwood launched the Made In Kenya collaboration in 2010, in partnership with the UN. In 2018, Vivienne Westwood launched a collaboration with Burberry, which was in association with non-profit organisation, Cool Earth. This company raises awareness and financial support to combat the climate emergency, including the protection of rainforests and ecosystems, as well as providing support and employment for people living in countries suffering the most from the climate emergency. 

Dame Vivienne Westwood, Made in Kenya Collection. Image courtesy of viviennewestwood.com

In 2020, Vivienne Westwood launched the ‘SAVE OUR OCEANS’ collection, featuring bags and accessories, in collaboration with Eastpak. For 2020 World Earth Day, the brand partnered with non-profit organisation, Canopy, to support their campaign to protect endangered forests through the use of alternative, sustainable materials for clothing. All mainline shows since became digital in order to deliver a more eco-friendly collection debuts, highlighting the designer’s consistent dedication to protection of the current climate and our environment.

A honourable figure who continued to make waves in the industry throughout their lifetime, speaking out for those who did not have a voice in political statements through fashion, we will forever remember and cherish the achievements of Dame Vivienne Westwood and her important place in history.

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